WASHINGTON - A strange thing happened to the White Sox coming out of the starting gate last week. They made seven errors, an American League high.
A team built around pitching and defense, with close to the same unit that led the AL in fielding percentage last season, dropped fly balls, made errant throws, bumped into each other on pop-ups and muffed a routine first baseman-to-the-pitcher-covering ground ball.
The Sox took ran their customary infield practice before the first game of a road series Tuesday and played a clean defensive game until left-hander Donnie Veal's pickoff throw in the seventh inning whizzed past first baseman Paul Konerko, sending Konerko on a 120-foot chase while Steve Lombardozzi dashed from first to third. Lombardozzi scored Washington's seventh run on Jayson Werth's RBI single, and the Nationals won 8-7.
Alex Rios hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth against Rafael Soriano, bringing the Sox to within one. Konerko flied out to center to end the game.
The loss dropped the Sox to 4-3.
Besides Veal's error, the other bad news concerning the Sox defense was that slick-fielding second baseman Gordon Beckham was forced to leave the game with a sore wrist. Beckham grimaced and bent over slightly after swinging and missing at a third strike when he batted against Gio Gonzalez in the second inning. After trainer Herm Schneider checked his wrist, Beckham played the second inning in the field but was replaced by Angel Sanchez in the third.
Beckham is day-to-day.
Beckham, an above average fielder, said little had to be discussed about the team's shaky glove work with the team starting a 10-game road trip.
"There's no panic because of a couple bad games, I promise you,'' he said before the game. "We're too good defensively, we do too many things right. There's no panic just because of a couple bad games. Hands are freezing cold the majority of the time [on the home stand last week], it was so windy Matt Thornton's hat blew into the dugout. It doesn't make any sense.''
This kind of defense Tuesday was much better: Right fielder Alex Rios threw out Bryce Harper and Gonzalez trying to stretch singles into doubles in the first and third innings. Center fielder Alejandro De Aza and Sanchez, who replaced Beckham for three innings, made nice plays, too, and Tyler Flowers caught catcher Wilson Ramos stealing on a strikeout-throw 'm out double play.
"People are going to make mistakes every once in a while,'' Beckham said. "There's been nothing said. Why should they? When you think about it, [the coaching staff] know we're a good defensive team. Why would they start acting like something's wrong when there isn't? If you would have told me I threw it eight feet left of first base I would have told you you were absolutely nuts.''
The Sox looked like they were out of this one before Konerko hit a three-run homer to left in the seventh inning against Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, a three-run shot with two out that brought the Sox within 6-5. It was the first homer of the year for Konerko, who also walked twice and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Sox starter Jake Peavy gave up three homers, to Ian Desmond leading off the fifth, a two-run shot by Werth in the sixth and a two-run shot by Adam La Roche in the sixth that knocked Peavy out of the game.
The homer by La Roche was his first hit of the season. He homered again in the eighth against reliever Matt Thornton.
Peavy was charged with six runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Jeff Keppinger, who had one hit going in, had two singles.